COVID-19 Guidance and Directives to Schools and Parishes 3.12.2020 6:00pm

News March 12, 2020

To: Pastors, Parish Administrators and School Leaders
From: Archdiocesan Pandemic Planning Team
Date: March 12, 2020
Re: COVID-19 Guidance and Directives to Schools and Parishes

The Archdiocese of Boston has established a Pandemic Planning team that meets daily and continues to monitor all available information and guidance about COVID-19 (the 2019 Novel Coronavirus) to determine how it impacts the many activities conducted within and by the Archdiocese. After careful consideration, we are issuing the following directives and guidance. 

After reviewing this information, if you have any questions or concerns, please email us at [email protected]. A parish planning guide is available here.

We are in the process of setting up a dedicated phone line for pandemic-related questions. We will share this information with you as soon as it becomes available. 

All of our communications can be found on our risk management website:

www.rcabrisk.org.

In addition to our communication and guidance, as unique circumstances can develop in local communities, please remember to monitor the guidance and directives of your local public health departments and officials, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the CDC.


SCHOOL DIRECTIVES

  • Suspension and cancellation of all field trips, service trips, and youth group trips until further notice.
  • Enhanced cleaning with greater emphasis on disinfectants.
  • Reinforcing the 14-day quarantine from the school environment protocol that applies to all students, faculty, staff and volunteers:
  • that travel, or have household members that travel, to a level 2 or above country 
  • that have any household members under a 14-day self-quarantine (for the remainder of the 14 days)
  • that have had exposure to a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • Any student, faculty, staff or volunteer that exhibits symptoms of illness should remain out of school at least 72 hours after the cessation of symptoms or until their physician deems it is safe to return.
  • All schools should begin planning and preparing for the prospect of remote learning, either for students in quarantine or during a period of closure. 
  • Schools should ensure that their student information systems are updated in order to reach students and families for the transmission of schoolwork or for updates through a closure period.
  • Schools should consult with the Catholic Schools Office prior to making any decision to close or send home any substantial number of students due to COVID-19 issues. 

We continue to await clear guidance from DPH and MIAA, among others, on sports programs and tournaments before postponing or canceling.


PARISH DIRECTIVES

  • Suspension and cancellation of all field trips, service trips, and youth group trips until further notice.
  • Parishes should drain Holy Water from all fonts until further notice.
  • Temporary suspension of distribution of communion on the tongue. (See Cardinal’s letter of 3/12/20)
  • Masses, funeral Masses, weddings, baptisms, Stations of the Cross, and similar liturgical services should proceed; however, all other social events, fundraising events, or other functions should be canceled or postponed until further notice.
  • Parishes should cancel the social gathering after Mass (coffee and donuts) until further notice. 
  • Parishes should cancel or postpone other large gatherings that are not essential until further notice. If permitted events are to be held, please ensure you are following best practices for social distancing and food is not being served. Consider hosting large group meetings and gatherings by web or teleconference where possible. 
  • Extraordinary ministers will suspend services to nursing homes and private home visits until further notice. 

We are aware that many catechists are in the high-risk category and it is often difficult to maintain proper hygiene with children and youth. Also, many of our catechists and parents regularly engage in travel throughout the region, country, and world. In light of the current situation, please note the following:

Please suspend any meals or food that is part of your parish faith formation programming:

  • Volunteering at soup kitchens and food pantries is still permitted – these organizations, to some extent, rely on our charity – but please note: 
  • anyone who is sick should not be penalized for not being able to attend and 
  • service is not required for reception of the sacrament of Confirmation under the current archdiocesan guidelines

In all cases, if any public school in your town or your Catholic school cancels classes because of COVID-19, please cancel parish faith formation programming as well.

Anyone who is not comfortable assuming the risk of interacting with others in a faith formation class or gathering of any sort must be excused – they cannot be obliged to attend.

 

Faith Formation of Children Grades PreK-5

  • We recommend that all faith formation classes and gatherings for children and families with children in grades PreK-5 be postponed until further notice.  
  • Consider how e-mail and on-line lessons, classes, videos, and lesson plans may be used.
  • Please provide parents, who remain the primary educators of their children, the resources they need to continue any necessary formation at home.  

 

Grades 6-12 Faith Formation and Youth Ministry

  • Cancellation of programs for this age group is at the discretion of your parish.
  • Disinfect surfaces.
  • Allow for proper social distancing. 
  • Encourage those who are ill to stay home.
  • First Communion and Confirmation Preparation
  • In these last few weeks leading up to the reception of First Communion and Confirmation for many around the Archdiocese, please provide parents, who remain the primary educators of their children, the resources they need to continue any necessary formation at home.  
  • Consider how e-mail and on-line lessons, classes, videos, and lesson plans may be used.

First Communion and Confirmation

  • At this time there is no recommendation to cancel any scheduled First Communion and Confirmation Masses.

Retreats

  • All retreats with minors – day, overnight, First Communion, Confirmation, etc. - must be suspended until further notice:
  • Please note that a retreat is not required for reception of the sacrament of Confirmation under current archdiocesan guidelines.

UPDATE FROM BENEFITS OFFICE

To help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, employees and family members enrolled in the Archdiocese of Boston Blue Cross Health Plans are encouraged to use Well Connection, the Blue Cross telehealth medicine platform, if they feel they may have symptoms of the virus. Co-payments for use of Well Connection will be waived, effective immediately.  All enrolled employees, spouses, and dependents over age 18 should register in advance for this service, which provides for live video visits 24/7 with licensed physicians. 

More information is available at https://myblue.bluecrossma.com/health-plan/well-connection.  

Blue Cross also offers the Blue Care Nurse Hotline (888-247-2583), which offers another method to seek clinical guidance for questions about the virus. In addition, their dedicated COVID-19 hotline is 1-888-372-1970.

Also effective immediately, all employees and family members enrolled in the RCAB Health Plans who receive medically necessary COVID-19 treatment at doctor’s offices, emergency rooms, and urgent care centers, will have no co-payment responsibility. Similarly, diagnostic tests for COVID-19 will be covered in full and will not be subject to a deductible. When available, vaccines for the virus will also be covered with no out-of-pocket cost.

Relaxed refill restrictions. We are temporarily waiving early refill limits on 30-day prescriptions for maintenance medications at any in-network pharmacy. You can now fill maintenance medication prescriptions ahead of schedule.

Free home delivery. CVS Pharmacy® has waived charges for home delivery of all prescription medications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages people at higher risk for COVID-19 complications to stay at home as much as possible, so this convenient option can help you avoid coming to the pharmacy for refills or new maintenance prescriptions. As always, there is no charge for delivery of prescriptions filled by CVS Caremark Mail Service pharmacy, when you choose mail.

As always, we encourage employees and their family members to seek medical attention when and where they feel it is appropriate.  Please contact Blue Cross directly at (800) 832-3871 for questions regarding coverage.